Compline: Trinity's Three Varieties

by: 
James Melchiorre

Compline, an ancient prayer service to end the day, is offered seven times a week by Trinity Church Wall Street, although in three somewhat different ways.

Each Tuesday evening at 6pm EST, in Scripture, Reflection & Compline, the Rev. Kristin Kaulbach Miles and the Rev. Alfred Loua gather online with a group that reads over the Gospel for the following Sunday, shares reflection on that scripture, and then closes with the Order of Compline, found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 127-133.

Compline is also prayed each weekday evening at 8pm EST at the Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall, CT, and streamed live on Facebook. That service is led by the Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, Trinity Retreat Center’s Priest and Director of Spiritual Formation, by Joseph Rose, Executive Director, Visitor Experience, Trinity Retreat Center, and sometimes by both.

“The Retreat Center serves as a place of prayer, reflection, listening to God, joy, and rest.  We believe that Compline captures the essence of what we are about at the Retreat Center as it calls us to place our life and day in the loving arms of God,” Dr. Bozzuti-Jones said.

Compline from the Trinity Retreat Center is often set in the center’s rugged stone chapel, but there are plans to expand locations.

“When spring comes, I will also be streaming some Compline services from the river, farm, outdoor chapel, and other locations at the Retreat Center,” Rose said.

“Compline reminds us that our lives begin and end in God.  At the Retreat Center, we believe that prayer, especially night prayers, calls us more deeply to live our core values and to commit to being God’s active presence in the world,” said Dr. Bozzuti-Jones 

Trinity's Compline by Candlelight with improvisational music on Sunday evening at St. Paul's Chapel has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trinity’s third offering, Compline by Candlelight, dates back almost a decade and is built around music, frequently from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, sung in improvisational style.

“We started thinking of an improvised Compline. I thought it would be a really interesting way to perhaps recreate what happened a thousand years ago,” said Julian Wachner, Director of Music at Trinity Church Wall Street.

“We played with different forms and have created, not a new art form, but a variation of an old art form.” Wachner added.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, this Compline service happened on Sunday evenings in St. Paul’s Chapel, illuminated only by the light of the candles held by those persons in attendance. That service is currently suspended due to COVID-19. However, since March, Trinity has offered archive recordings of Compline by Candlelight through podcasts and on the church’s website and Facebook and Twitter social media channels.

References to Compline in the history of the Church first appear more than 1,500 years ago as the concluding rite of the Daily Office, a Christian custom derived from the Jewish practice of prayer at fixed times of the day (“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances.” Psalm 119:164).